Favorite athlete: Victoria Garrick
Favorite team: Philadelphia Eagles
Favorite memory competing in sports: When our team made it to the third round of districts last year, the furthest our program has ever gone!
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: My friend and I tripped over each other in the middle of a play but ended up still winning the point!
Music on playlist: Usually pop, definitely The Weeknd, Khalid, and Jeremy Zucker
Future plans: Attend college, study politics, and go into law
Words to live by: “Actions speak louder than words”
One goal before turning 30: Travel to 10 different countries
One thing people don’t know about me: My favorite movie is Pitch Perfect
By Craig Ostroff
During her junior season on the Upper Dublin girls’ volleyball team, Lauren Howie learned she would be counted on to take a leadership role for the 2021 squad.
At the time, she couldn’t have realized just how much of a challenge she would be facing. Or how crucial her leadership would prove to be.
“Coach (Paul) Choi said last season he saw me as having a strong leadership role this year,” said Howie. “I knew we’d have to fill the shoes of the seniors we were losing. I was honored and excited he saw that in me.
“Being named a co-captain on this year’s team meant so much to me. I was so excited when I found out. After being on the varsity from the end of my sophomore year through junior year, I knew I was ready for the challenge, as I felt like over the last few years I’d developed a good relationship with all the girls on the team, older and younger.”
Howie and her schoolmates had already dealt with a Covid-altered volleyball season—not to mention parts of two school years affected by the pandemic. But Upper Dublin’s hopes of returning to some semblance of normalcy were dashed just one day into the new school year when the remnants of Hurricane Ida unleashed massive rain, winds, and a tornado on the area.
Amidst the mass destruction throughout the area was significant damage to Upper Dublin High School. The school would close for a month for repairs, force the students to return to remote learning, and leave the fall sports teams scrambling to find places to practice and play.
“Lauren was really a lifesaver for us this year,” Choi said. “She’s the one you know is going to take care of everyone.
“For me, having Lauren as a co-captain was the best thing that could happen for this team under those circumstances. You need someone who can take care of all that and help me out and support and make sure everyone is focused and on the same page. She’s a great student, very intelligent, very mature, and she’s able to help with the transition of everything that was going on early in the season for us.”
After the initial shock subsided and the students needed to move forward, Howie and her co-captain Sammy Silver set about gathering the team and getting them refocused on the task at hand.
“Once we all settled in, I was talking to Sammy and Coach Choi, and it was all about how can we motivate the team?” Howie said. “We’d make sure we were texting, calling, checking in on everyone, doing what we could to make the best out of the situation and switch into the next phase of making this situation the best it can be.”
The ensuing outpouring of support certainly helped the team remain positive.
“It was remarkable. You don’t understand the community you have around you until these things happen,” Howie said. “Wissahickon offered up their gym, other teams switched games and adjusted game times, Sandy Run let us use their gym. I have friends on other teams who lost the pool, or the tennis courts, but we all saw so many other schools willing to help out or host them. Even just caring enough to send a text. Everyone rallied behind us and made things a lot easier, it was awesome to see.”
Being on the court posed its own set of challenges as well. For the Cardinals as a whole, the team was looking to develop chemistry and forge its identity after having graduated a ton of talent from last year’s squad.
If you’re looking to turn a team into a family, you’ve got to have someone taking the role of “Team Mom.” There’s no doubt who assumed that role.
“As a leader, Lauren has that ‘mom’ characteristic,” Choi said. “She’s the one always making sure everyone else is OK, always supporting everyone else.”
“My friends always call me the Mom Friend,” Howie said with a laugh. “I’ve grown to love it. My friends in my class are all close, but especially for the younger girls - I’ve been in their place. There’s a lot of stress with sports and school and Covid and things going on at home. I had people who looked out for me like that when I was younger, and I want to be that person for other people. It’s important keeping them in check as teammates, but also making sure they’re OK in all aspects of their life.”
Team Mom off the court, Howie was also counted upon to be a leader by example and a vocal presence at defensive specialist.
Her coach had unwavering faith that she would be able to rise up and meet the challenge.
“Last year at the end of the season, we had a meeting and we talked about I know she can be a great leader,” Choi said. “She was a leader on the JV team (as a sophomore), and knowing she could be one of our captains, I wanted to put it in her head she was going to have to take on a much bigger responsibility.”
The Cardinals battled through inconsistencies, distractions, and growing pains in the early weeks of the season. But throughout the early bumps in the road, Howie’s positive attitude remained a constant.
“When our energy wasn’t good or we needed positivity, I could always rely on Lauren,” Choi said. “In timeouts, she’s talking to the team, trying to uplift everyone. You can’t be successful if your heads are down. Lauren has an understanding of the team’s vibe and energy level. She’s not afraid to voice her opinion and speak up if necessary. She always wants to do what’s in the best interest of the team. The team comes first, and she was willing to do what she needed to in order to make sure we were successful.
“And she busted her butt day in and day out. I always knew she would give us 100 percent every day. You don’t get that from everyone.”
As the season progressed, the Cardinals’ fortunes changed. Howie’s presence proved to be critical in the turnaround, evidenced by the fact that the upswing coincided with her return after missing two weeks with a concussion.
“Her presence was missed,” Choi said of Howie’s midseason absence. “She’s our number-1 DS, we needed her if we wanted to be successful, because we play a defensive style. When she came back, everything started clicking. We starting posting upset after upset, and we took down some pretty tough teams.”
Having waited so long for her opportunity to step into a starting role, missing several games proved to be difficult for Howie. But she also saw the aura of the team change upon her return.
“Being out was tough—I wanted to cheer, I wanted to be at the games, and I couldn’t do any of that,” she said. “My first game back, you could just feel this shift, we found how we play well together and motivate each other. The last three weeks of the season, we turned it around, won a lot of games against really strong teams. It was exciting to see that all the work we put in was finally paying off. We had a lot of talent, but we hadn’t found the chemistry, so to finally find it and see that we could hang with and beat some of the top teams was really rewarding.”
Howie transfers her positive attitude to her schoolwork as well. After having spent so much of her high school years learning remotely, she’s happy to be back walking the UDHS hallways with friends and teachers, even if her schedule is packed with four Advanced Placement classes and several honors-level courses.
In addition to her leadership role on the volleyball team, Howie also serves as President of the school’s Mock Trial Team and is Vice President of student government.
She’s still weighing her college options, but she’s looking to study political science and philosophy and economics with an eye on possibly pursuing a law degree. Depending on where she ends up, she’d like to play volleyball, most likely at the club or intermural level.
After all, there are more volleyball squads out there that need that Team Mom and need that positive attitude.
And while Howie is still deciding where she may or may not affect future teammates, there’s no doubt the legacy she leaves at Upper Dublin despite her relatively short varsity tenure. Despite all the setbacks and distractions early on, the Cardinals finished strong to end the season a respectable 7-12 overall, 5-7 in American Conference play. And Howie and her fellow seniors laid the groundwork for the future.
“I hope they can be successful next year and in the future,” Howie said. “They have to show up for themselves and for their teammates every day. This is a team sport, you have to rely on each other. I always tried to be someone who would show up every day for their teammates, and who cared for them and was their cheerleader. And they can adopt it themselves. This year’s juniors, coming back as seniors next year, if they can channel the work ethic and caring for their friends and teammates, they’ll be successful. When everyone is there for each other, that’s when things turn out the best.”
“We’re going to miss her presence,” Choi said. “We had a standout libero we lost last year, this year we’re losing Howie - we lose another big defensive presence, but more so we lose a big leadership presence. She has strong values, she’s mature, understands that the values of this program are more than just what happens on the court. Whether it was volleyball-related or school or anything else, I always knew as a coach and we always knew as a team that we could count on Lauren.”
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